Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Conciousness Journal of a Wargamer
  • .: Welcome to my blog :.

    I'm John R. "Buck" Surdu. I have two Web pages that contain relatively static information about my professional life (including papers I've written) and my hobby life (including information about rules I've written and my wargaming projects). This blog is where I plan to post personal tidbits, like vacation pictures, wargaming projects, etc. Enjoy!
  • A Little Weekend Gaming

    Posted By on August 17, 2014

    Marder II gets a track hit from a bazooka, and the crew bails out

    Marder II gets a track hit from a bazooka, and the crew bails out

    As my wife and kids are off visiting my mother in law, I invited a few buddies over for a small gaming session.  I find that early play testing rules is often better with a smaller group.  I am still refining the vehicle rules for GAMER and wanted to test some ideas with just three or four guys.  Only two could make it, Chris and Duncan.

    I set up another tank-heavy scenario involving a scratch German force attacking an American position.  I was hoping to get a couple of close assaults and some bazooka fire.  I also wanted another test of the vehicle damage procedure.  All seemed to work well, but I still need to think a little about how vehicles interact with cover and vehicle movement speeds.

    Stuart facing off against a 38(t)

    Stuart facing off against a 38(t)

    There Germans started with four tanks, while the Americans just had a Sherman and a Stuart.  The Americans also had two infantry squads, each with a bazooka.  The Germans had two tank hunter teams, one with a panzer faust and the other with a panzershreck.  Even though the Pz. IV fired first, the Sherman knocked out the Pz. IV.  The Germans never got much momentum, and the Americans gradually attritted them.  In the end, it was a convincing American victory.  I just need to clarify a few points with regard to the vehicle hit procedure.  Also, I think that vehicles are moving too slowly.  I also need to play with indirect fire.

    After the WWII game, I cooked some hamburgers on the grill and we talked about game design a bit.  In particular we were trying to brainstorm ways to account for the drawbacks of card-based activation without going back to IGO-UGO.

    Tree monster hit with a flame spell starts to burn

    Tree monster hit with a flame spell starts to burn

    A couple of years ago, Chris, Dave, and I were working on a set of rules for wizard battles.  After the WWII game, we pulled out the wizard game again and fiddled with it some more.  We came up with some good ideas.  When I finish with writing Bear Yourselves Valiantly and G.A.M.E.R., I’d like to resurrect the wizard battle game.

    Toy Soldiers

    Posted By on August 9, 2014

    A couple of weeks ago Sammy ran her first convention game at Historicon.  She used my Eureka toy soldiers fighting the Eureka teddy bears.  That reminded me that I had 12 more toy soldiers in my ready-to-paint box.  This morning I knocked them out.  These are the last ones I purchased before they stopped updating the line.  The others were painted to resemble Britains grenadier guard figures, but for these I decided to vary the colors a bit.

    Recent Painting Projects

    Posted By on August 7, 2014

     

     

    It’s been a while, but I finally had time to do some light painting.  I took the opportunity to knock a couple of things off my painting queue.  The first was a batch of knights I got in a convention flea market.  I have been toying with the idea of a jousting game for some time.  I’ve played in several jousting games that have been fun, but they often get boring quickly as the number of decisions is quite small.  So, I have some ideas that I’ve been thinking about while pushing a bunch of flab around the streets for an hour in a vain attempt at weight control.  I’ve had some ideas for an opposed die roll dice progression mechanic that will be just right for jousting, I think.  The problem with dice progression systems (i.e., d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, etc.) is that they break down after d12.  Each die adds .5 to the expected value.  E(d4) = 2.5.  E(d6) = 3.5.  E(d8) = 4.5.  Etc.  But when you get to rolling two dice (say, d6 + d8) instead of a uniform distribution, you get a bell curve.  Recently I’ve seen that d14, d16, and d18 are readily available.  I think a die progression mechanic with a lot of variance (4-20 instead of 4-12) is finally feasible in a way that I can live with, mathematically.

    Some weeks back I posted some pictures of some WWII Americans riding giant eagles and some Eureka Stukasauruses.  I traded something to Chris for his unpainted Stukasauruses.  After sitting on them for several months, I finally painted them.  I have Major Objective (the guys who custom made the Americans for my eagles) working on some Brits to ride on griffins.  I will pick them up at Fall In, so watch for a weird world war two game by Cold Wars.

    2014 Alaska Vacation: Last Day

    Posted By on August 4, 2014

    One of many stuffed animals at the visitor's center

    One of many stuffed animals at the visitor's center

    Our last morning, we finished packing all our gear to get ready to turn in the RV.  Then we drove back into downtown Anchorage to see the Park Service visitor center.  There were some nice displays and a couple of really nice movies, including this one on the Northern Light: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mdy8jjc9-TM

    The Reindeer Sausage Nazi

    The Reindeer Sausage Nazi

    On the way out we stopped at this cart to get a reindeer sausage.  The sausage was terrific, but the guy was a little brusque, including a sign saying, “Get off your cell phone and complete your private conversations before stepping up to order.”  Reindeer sausage was terrific!

    Our last lunch in the RV -- cleaning up all the leftovers

    Our last lunch in the RV -- cleaning up all the leftovers

    We then drove near the RV rental outfit and stopped to fill up the gas tank and the propane tank.  We then ate most of the leftovers we had left in the refrigerator — our last vacation meal.

    Panorama from one of our rest stops

    Panorama from one of our rest stops

    As a sort of recap, here are a couple of neat pictures that didn’t make it into previous posts.  You may need to open the panoramic pictures in another view to see them fully.

    Panorama on the Ruth Glacier

    Panorama on the Ruth Glacier

    In this picture Tom moved part way through the picture so that he could be in it twice!

    The stone man across the street from The Sourdough Mining Company

    The stone man across the street from The Sourdough Mining Company

    This is a replica of a navigational aid that Alaska natives would build along the trackless tundra to help guide themselves to good hunting grounds, home, etc.  This one was set up across from the restaurant at which we had our last dinner in Alaska.

    Flying home, looking down at glaciers and mountains

    Flying home, looking down at glaciers and mountains

    Farewell Alaska…

    2014 Alaska Vacation: Days 10 and 11

    Posted By on August 1, 2014

    A view of Seward harbor

    A view of Seward harbor

    We had a third beautiful weather day.  We drove to Seward and couldn’t believe our weather luck!  The sky was mostly clear, the weather was warm, and there was a nice breeze.  We began by walking around some of the souvenir shops in “downtown” Seward.

    Looking up over some of the buildings on "main street" Seward

    Looking up over some of the buildings on "main street" Seward

    Seward is the southern terminus of the Alaska railroad and a port of debarkation for coal from the interior of Alaska heading to Asia.  It is also a port for cruise ships.  The winter population is about 5000 people.  There were a number nice little stores and cafes in town.

    Another view of "main street" Seward

    Another view of "main street" Seward

    After walking around the town, we made sandwiches in the RV and drove to Exit Glacier.  The Harding Ice Field is a huge glacier (sort of a lake of ice in the middle of the Chugach mountains) that feeds several glaciers.  One of the first expeditions to try cross the ice field exited at this glacier, hence the name.

    Our first glimpse Exit Glacier

    Our first glimpse Exit Glacier

    We had a chance to take a hike up alongside the glacier for a couple of miles.

    A look at Exit Glacier from just a few yards away

    A look at Exit Glacier from just a few yards away

    As we got closer to the ice, we found that the glacier was creating its own cold breeze.  The lower area near the visitor’s center was actually hot, and we were attacked by flies.  Once we got up a few feet, it was quite pleasant, perhaps chilly.  There is a longer hike (approximately 8 hours) that takes you up to the edge of the ice field, but we didn’t have time for that.  We needed to get back for our second cruise.

    A block of ice that has fallen off Exit Glacier

    A block of ice that has fallen off Exit Glacier

    Getting ready for our cruise

    Getting ready for our cruise

    Before heading out to Exit Glacier, we had signed up for a four-hour cruise out Resurrection Bay into the Gulf of Alaska to look at wildlife.  Our hope was to see porpoises, whales, and puffins.

    Tommy looking "nautical" on our way out of the harbor

    Tommy looking "nautical" on our way out of the harbor

    The cruise included an all-you-can eat prime rib and salmon buffet.  The food was terrific.  On the way back to port, there was an all-you-can eat dessert buffet.  Based on prices for food in Alaska, one serving of each would have cost more in most restaurants than we paid for the buffet.

    Sammy, Tommy, and Candy looking at jellyfish

    Sammy, Tommy, and Candy looking at jellyfish

    The boat holds up to 200 people, but for whatever reason only 19 were signed up for this cruise.  The limited number of passengers enabled the crew to provide more personalized attention and reduced the jockeying for position on the rail to see wildlife.

    Again the cruise included a National Park Service Ranger who provided narration throughout the four-hour ride.  The ranger told us that these charter cruise companies pay the Park Service to provide these rangers, which in turn allows them to hire more part-time rangers to assist with managing the vast lands controlled by the Department of the Interior.

    Several glacier-created islands on our way out of Resurrection Bay

    Several glacier-created islands on our way out of Resurrection Bay

    Porpoises following our boat

    Porpoises following our boat

    The porpoises were designated “awesome” by Sammy.

    A distant view of a Humpback Whale

    A distant view of a Humpback Whale

    We never got too close to this whale, but he was clearly visible several times.  The ranger explained that when whales are sleeping they bob near the surface, coming up from time to time to breathe.

    Candy enjoying her fourth Harvey Wallbanger

    Candy enjoying her fourth Harvey Wallbanger

    Just kidding… but we did enjoy soft drinks and later some hot chocolate.

    We met our objectives of spotting porpoises, whales, and puffins!  Tommy was hoping to see a Beluga whale, but we didn’t.

    The view above our campsite in Seward

    The view above our campsite in Seward

    We slept that night in a campground right along the water.  When we woke up we were greeted by yet another perfect weather day!

    The Alaska Sealife Center

    The Alaska Sealife Center

    The agenda called for us to visit the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward.  Partially funded by Federal money and partially funded by an Exxon Valdez trust fund, this center is involved in aquatic research and the rehabilitation of wounded animals.  When the weather was so nice the previous day, we pushed this off a day, fully expecting that the weather would turn bad and it would be good to enjoy an indoor activity.

    Commodore Sammy

    Commodore Sammy

    Some kind of crab

    Some kind of crab

    Sammy and Tommy touching stuff

    Sammy and Tommy touching stuff

    The Sealife Center was nicely laid out with some innovative exhibits.  I thought it was worth the time we spent there.  They also had once of the nicest gift shops we’d seen throughout our visit to Alaska.

    They continue to touch stuff

    They continue to touch stuff

    A puffin

    A puffin

    A strange sort of star fish

    A strange sort of starfish, called a Basket Starfish

    Seals

    Seals

    A sea lion

    A sea lion

    Sadly our trip is beginning to come to an end.  After lunch in Seward, we headed back toward Anchorage for our last night in Alaska.  Along the way we pulled off at some scenic overlooks to see some of the sites that were difficult to see because of the rain on our way southward.

    The view along the road back to Anchorage from Seward

    The view along the road back to Anchorage from Seward

    Somewhere during our drive, I got an Email from my buddy Sam Fuson who was once stationed at Ft. Richardson.  He recommended that we have halibut at the Sourdough Mining Company.  The food was terrific and so plentiful that even Tom had trouble finishing his dinner.  Most nights there is a singer and storyteller in the evenings, but we happened to get there the one night in 10 years that he was ill.

    The view from Bird Point in the Turnagain Arm area

    The view from Bird Point in the Turnagain Arm area

    Well…  we get on the plane tomorrow for another 12 hours in the air back to Baltimore with stops in Seattle and Detroit.  Ca ca.  Another vacation has come to a close.

     

    2014 Vacation: Days 8 and 9

    Posted By on July 30, 2014

    A view of nearby mountains through the morning mist

    A view of nearby mountains through the morning mist

    After our perfect day on Mt. McKinley, the next day was rainy all day.  We stopped at a couple of scenic overlooks as we drove south from our campsite, but the rain and fog really limited visibility.   We also make a quick stop at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to restock the pantry.

    Looking around the museum at the mine

    Looking around the museum at the mine

    To break up the drive, we stopped at the Indian Creek mine where a character talked to us about the mine and some of the antiques he had collected.  We were only able to see the mine entrance, but it was a good way to get off the road for a while.  The museum was housed in an old log cabin which had once been pushed all the way onto the river ice by an avalanche.  It was moved back and many years later was designated a national historic site, dating past the Alaska gold rush.  The owner said that initially the Smithsonian wouldn’t grant historic site designation, because the cabin wasn’t in its original location, but once they found out that natural forces moved it, they relented.

    Sammy making friends with a beluga

    Sammy making friends with a beluga

    We stopped at another scenic overlook because of the rain.  After a few hands of dominoes, the rain subsided.  We walked around the overlook.  Again, the rain and fog limited visibility, but we found these interesting sculptures of beluga whales.

    Along the hike

    Along the hike

    Near Girdwood we took a 5 mile hike.  The attraction here was the hand tram over Glacier Creek.  It rained the whole way, but it was a good hike.

    Tommy and Sammy pulling themselves in the hand tram across the raging stream

    Tommy and Sammy pulling themselves in the hand tram across the raging stream

    The hand tram was really neat.  Up to two people could get in this cage and then pull themselves across with the rope.  All of us took a turn in the bucket.

    Looking down through the floor of the hand tram

    Looking down through the floor of the hand tram

    After returning from the hike and drying off a bit, we bought a pizza in Girdwood and drove to our campsite for the night.  We stayed in the Willawa camp ground, managed by the Forest Service.  The campsites were far apart and surrounded by trees, so it didn’t seem very crowded.  When we went to bed, we weren’t sure about whether the weather would cooperate for our planned glacier cruise the next day.

    A view along the morning hike

    A view along the morning hike

    We had a lot of low fog the next morning.  (This stream was supposed to be full of spawning salmon, but we saw none.)  We weren’t sure about the cruise, but there was a little blue poking through the clouds, so after a brief stop at a visitors center for information, we drove through the tunnel to Whittier.

    Only you can prevent forest fires!

    Only you can prevent forest fires!

    The tunnel is the longest tunnel in the world shared by vehicles and trains.  On the half hour traffic is permitted to drive into Whittier.  On the hour, traffic comes out of Whittier.  In between, trains use the tunnel.

    A glacier viewed through two mountains

    A glacier viewed through two mountains

    Whittier was built by the US Army during WWII as a supply depot.  Supplies would be unloaded in Whittier (on Prince William Sound) and taken inland by train.  Today almost the entire population of the town lives in a single high-rise building built to house soldiers and their families.

    We had a Forest Service ranger provide narrating during our cruise

    We had a Forest Service ranger provide narrating during our cruise

    When we came through the tunnel to Whittier, the weather was beautiful.  It was sunny, warm, and blue.  We bought our tickets and boarded for our cruise to see 26 glaciers.  On board was a ranger from the US Forest Service who provided narration, which was terrific.  He also helped spot wildlife.

    Sea lions lounging on "egg rocks"

    Sea lions lounging on "egg rocks"

    The first portion of the cruise was just getting out to the interesting stuff.  They served us a very nice cod lunch to pass the time.  The food was quite good.  Eventually we arrived at the sea lion rookery (shown above), where we saw many sea lions.  The boat could not get too close to the sea lions to avoid disturbing them.

    What a handsome dude!

    What a handsome dude!

    We saw all 26 glaciers.  I was checking them off on the map.  There were so many amazing sights that it was difficult not to become jaded.

    One of the tidewater glaciers that come down to the water's edge

    One of the tidewater glaciers that come down to the water's edge

    The ranger told us that there are only about 10 days this nice all Summer on Prince William Sound.  After the excellent day on Mt. McKinley and the crappy day the day before, we were amazed at our luck!

    Reflections

    Reflections

    Among the wildlife we spotted we saw many sea otters lounging in the water.

    Sea otters

    Sea otters

    The total cruise time was over five hours, getting us back in time to make the on-the-hour train out of Whittier.

    Surprise glacier

    Surprise glacier

    The Cook expedition was stopped by ice, so his maps missed an arm of the Sound that led to this glacier.  When the Harriman expedition found this arm in a later expedition, they were greeted by this huge glacier, so it is called “Surprise Glacier.”  We were hoping to see it calve (a big chunk falling off into the water), but didn’t.  The boat loitered here for a while, and we got some amazing views.

    10,000 gulls nesting together on the rocks

    10,000 gulls nesting together on the rocks

    Our boat, the Klondike Express

    Our boat, the Klondike Express

    After driving back through the long tunnel from Whittier, we headed toward Seward.  Candy found a very nice camp ground with full hookups about 20 minutes north of Seward, our destination for the next day.

    Our motor home parked at the Renfro's campsite not far from Seward

    Our motor home parked at the Renfro's campsite not far from Seward

    The lake at sunset at our campsite

    The lake at sunset at our campsite

    The campground has its own lake front, and the kids took a turn in one of the paddle boats after dinner.

    Looking to the East from our campsite

    Looking to the East from our campsite

    This was one of our last sights (at 2300 hours) before going to bed.  What a place!

    Family Vacation: Days 5, 6, and 7

    Posted By on July 28, 2014

    Entering Denali National Park

    Entering Denali National Park

    After a quick stop in the town outside the national park for some souvenir hunting and lunch, we headed into the Denali National Park.  Denali consists of over six million acres, and there is just one road through it, so we took our time driving to the Teklaneeka campground deep inside the park, taking in the sights along the way.  The RV did reasonably well on the gravel road.

    Looking down at Horseshoe Lake during a short hike

    Looking down at Horseshoe Lake during a short hike

    Before getting on the long road to the campground, however, we took a short hike around Horseshoe lake.  We didn’t see any animals, but we saw a beaver dam that was probably 40 yards long.  No beaver.

    Tommy and a moose

    Tommy and a moose

    The next morning we got up very early to catch the first bus toward Wonder Lake.  Our thought was that we would see more wildlife on the early bus.  We did.  It started with a pair of moose hanging out near the bus stop.  You can see one behind Tommy’s shoulder in this picture.

    A female moose

    A female moose

    Soon after departing we encountered another one.

    A view from along the road through Denali

    A view from along the road through Denali

    It was a four hour bus ride from our campground to Wonder Lake.  Along the way we saw some beautiful scenery and many animals.  The only one of the “big” animals we didn’t see was a wolf.

    Very beautiful view from along the road

    Very beautiful view from along the road

    We encountered two golden eagles perched on rocks above the road.  This picture is one of them flying away.

    Another moose sighting!

    Another moose sighting!

    Two German girls were on the bus, taking pictures of their own moose at various stops.

    The bus driver, Darlene was quite good.  She stopped frequently and had lots of good stories.

    Sammy the caribou

    Sammy the caribou

    This picture was taken at a short rest stop along the way.

    A small group of caribou

    A small group of caribou

    Moose frollicking through the tundra

    Moose frollicking through the tundra

    We saw more moose on this four-hour bus ride than we did during our entire visit to Maine.

    Wonder lake

    Wonder lake

    Considering its name, Wonder Lake was a bit anti-climactic.  From here, however, we took a five mile hike out and back along the McKinley Bar trail, which took us through rocks and woods to the river.

    Tommy helping Candy across a small mud puddle on our hike along the McKinley Bar Trail

    Tommy helping Candy across a small mud puddle on our hike along the McKinley Bar Trail

    A view of ptarmigans along the trail

    A view of ptarmigans along the trail

    On the way back we encountered three rock ptarmigans, the Alaska state bird.  They looked a lot like pheasant or grouse to me.  They eventually flew off as we continued our hike.

    Caribou grazing near the bus

    Caribou grazing near the bus

    Another caribou near the bus on our ride back toward camp.

    The line of latrines at one of the rest stops

    The line of latrines at one of the rest stops

    The rest stops along the bus route looked like this.  The doors were probably three inches thick and heavily reinforced to keep out bears and other animals.  All were very clean!

    A game of rummy

    A game of rummy

    That night we played rummy and watched a little television before bed.

    Homework time while on the road

    Homework time while on the road

    The next morning we left the campground and headed southward.  On our way up, we had tried to get a flight up to a glacier on the slopes of Mt. McKinley.  This morning the clouds cleared, and it looked like we might be able to fly, so we packed up and headed back to Talkeetna.  During a portion of the drive, the kids worked on their Summer reading.

    Tommy working on his Summer reading

    Tommy working on his Summer reading

    Our first clear view of Mt. McKinley

    Our first clear view of Mt. McKinley

    Then we turned a bend in the road and there was Mt. McKinley.  They say only 31% of visitors to Alaska get to see the whole mountain.  It was much more impressive than this picture conveys.  Mt. McKinley is the tallest mountain in the Western Hemisphere, at 20k+ feet of elevation.

    Another view of Mt. McKinley from Talkeetna

    Another view of Mt. McKinley from Talkeetna

    We stopped several times along the way to get different and better shots of the mountain.  The sky got better and better all day.

    Getting "booted up" for our glacier walk

    Getting "booted up" for our glacier walk

    We were lucky to get a 1430 flight up the mountain for a glacier landing from Talkeetna.  Each of us donned a pair of protective over boots so that we could walk around in the snow on the glacier.

    Ready for takeoff

    Ready for takeoff

    There were six of us plus the pilot on this DeHaviland Beaver.

    Approaching Mt. McKinley by air

    Approaching Mt. McKinley by air

    The flight was smooth, and along the way the pilot had a lot of interesting things to point out.  I got to sit up front and take lots of pictures.

    Getting closer

    Getting closer

    The glaciers on Mt. McKinley are growing at an average rate of about three feet a day.  The guide said that the glaciers act like frozen rivers.  They have falls, currents, and even cataracts.

    Ice fall

    Ice fall

    Here you can see where ice has formed, cracked, and fallen.  These falls grow at a rate of six or more feet per day and push the glacier down the valley.

    On the glacier with Mt. McKinley in the distance

    On the glacier with Mt. McKinley in the distance

    Landing on the glacier was interesting.  The surface was slushy, so the plane slid around on its skis until it came to a stop.  The temperature was about 30 degrees, but it felt much warmer due to the sun and the heat radiating off the snow and rocks.

    Our plane

    Our plane

    We spent about 25 minutes on the glacier before returning to Talkeetna.  The guide told us that glaciologists come up here to study the McKinley glaciers quite frequently.  They have taken deep core samples.  Air is trapped in the glaciers, so core samples reveal things about the air 10s of thousands of years ago.  For the global warming crowd, the scientists who study these glaciers say that the percent of greenhouse gasses in the air 10,000 years ago is about the same as it is today.

    A view of "rapids" along the Ruth glacier

    A view of "rapids" along the Ruth glacier

    In this picture you can see how the ice cracks as it flows downhill.  Also note the light blue patches.  The color of the glacial ice is blue.  It doesn’t show in most of the pictures, but in person you could see the slightly blue color.  The light blue patches in this picture are deep fissures or crevasses that have filled with snow.  When the sun is out, the top layers melt a little and turn into these light blue lakes or ponds.

    After returning to Talkeetna, we played in the elementary school playground for a few minutes and then headed South to Houston to stop for the night before continuing south past Anchorage.

     

    Vacation 2014: Days 3 and 4

    Posted By on July 25, 2014

    Walking uphill to Thunderbird Falls

    Walking uphill to Thunderbird Falls

    Day three involved a drive from Anchorage to Talkeetna with ad hoc stops along the way.  Candy has a great book that has everything in Alaska by milepost.  We made an impromptu stop at a pullout for Thunderbird Falls.  After a mile hike over mostly easy trail, we reached the falls.

    Thunderbird Falls

    Thunderbird Falls

    They were nice, but not the most spectacular falls we’ve ever seen.  Still, it was a nice hike and a great way to break up the drive.

    The Iditarod Headquarters

    The Iditarod Headquarters

    Farther up the road, in Wasilla (Sarah Palin’s home town), we visited the Iditarod Race Headquarters.  The race actually begins in Anchorage, but the headquarters is in Wasilla.

    Some of the artifacts inside the Iditarod HQ

    Some of the artifacts inside the Iditarod HQ

    Inside the gift store they showed an eighteen-minute movie and had some very interesting race memorabilia.  I was hoping that the movie would talk more about the history of the race.  It was in fact more like a racing documentary, discussing the mushers competing in the 2012 race.  In anchorage we learned that this race commemorates an historical event.  One winter there was an outbreak of diphtheria in Nome and the only way to get the serum from Anchorage was by dogsled.  Sometime in the the 60′s or 70′s someone came up with the idea or resurrecting the event for sport, not unlike running a marathon, which was initially to commemorate the end of the battle of Marathon.

    Miller's in Houston, AK

    Miller's in Houston, AK

    Still farther up the road toward Talkeetna we stopped at Miller’s roadside cafe.  They were reputed to have great burgers and ice cream.  They did.  This was a neat place: combination general store, ice cream parlor, burger joint, coffee house, and post office.  In fact the Postmaster is the person who cooked our food.

    Hmmm. To lick or not to lick?

    Hmmm. To lick or not to lick?

    We topped off our food with ice cream and got back on the road.

    Our campsite at Talkeetna

    Our campsite at Talkeetna

    Eventually we arrived in Talkeetna.  The town, which has a year-round population of ~800, was originally a transit point where goods were take off barges and the hauled by mules, horses, or dog sleds farther into the interior.  Today it is largely a tourist attraction, with gift stores, place to eat, river rafting excursions, and flights to glaciers on Mt. McKinley.

    Downtown Talkeetna

    Downtown Talkeetna

    We signed up for a flight up to a glacier on Mt. McKinley the next day and walked into town to look around.

    Entering downtown Talkeetna

    Entering downtown Talkeetna

    Future mushers

    Future mushers

    Smooch!

    Smooch!

    Zoom!

    Zoom!

    The garlic spinach bread here was awesome!

    The garlic spinach bread here was awesome!

    Nagley's General Store in Talkeetna

    Nagley's General Store in Talkeetna

    This town was the model for the town in the television show Northern Exposure.  One of the locals told us that the high school (fed by three towns) graduated 22 last year.  This general store reminded me of the one in my grandmother’s home town in Illinois.   There was a little bit of everything in the store, from bread to bait and from animal skins to snacks.

    The master chef grills teriyaki chicken kabobs

    The master chef grills teriyaki chicken kabobs

    That night I made chicken kabobs on the grill for dinner.  We finished the day with a little ice cream while watching an episode of the Mission Impossible TV show.  It began to rain that night.  The next morning, clouds hung low in the sky and visibility was limited.  Our flight to the glacier was cancelled.  We, therefore, took our time getting packed up and then headed toward the entrance to Denali National Park.

    Sam goofing in front of the Alaska Veteran's Memorial

    Sam goofing in front of the Alaska Veteran's Memorial

    One of our stops this day was in Denali State Park, where we saw the Alaska Veteran’s Memorial.  Nearby were some VERY interesting placards describing interesting vignettes about Alaska at War, mostly WWII and the Cold War.  There was also a story about a Confederate ship, the Shenandoah, which was sent to Alaska to sink Union whaling boats.  Apparently, profits from whale hunting were important sources of revenue to finance the war.  The Shenandoah sank 6 or 8 Union whaling vessels, continuing its mission for six months after the war had officially ended.  There is debate among historians as to whether the crew knew the war was over and kept sinking ships anyway.  This whole memorial area was a really unexpected gem.

    A view of the mountains along Parks Highway

    A view of the mountains along Parks Highway

    You can see by this picture that it was drizzly all day, and visibility was limited.  We should have been able to see Mt. McKinley most of the day, but the thick clouds got in the way.  We eventually arrived at our campsite just a few miles outside the gate to the Denali National Park.  I barely had time to finish cooking burgers for dinner on our little grill before the sky opened up.  We are told that the weather will get progressively better throughout the weekend, so we have hopes of a good visit to the National Park and making another attempt to fly up the mountain and land on a glacier.

    Planning for Barrage Commences

    Posted By on July 24, 2014

    A view of the gaming area in full swing

    A view of the gaming area in full swing

    Now that HISTORICON is behind us, the HAWKs will begin planning our annual gaming day, Barrage.  This year’s event will be 13 September.  If you would like to run an event, please contact surdu@acm.org.  Also, see the Barrage Web site:  http://www.bucksurdu.com/Buck_Surdu/Barrage.html

    In addition to a full slate of games, we will also have a table running all day with games specifically suited for younger gamers.

    The HAWKs

    The HAWKs

    Historicon 2014

    Posted By on July 23, 2014

    Last weekend was HMGS East’s flagship convention, HISTORICON.  For the third year in a row it was held at the Expo Center in Fredericksburg, VA.  I had planned to take both Thursday and Friday off work to attend.  Since I hand’t committed to running any Thursday games, at the last minute I determined to go to work on Thursday and drive down later.  I was supposed to leave work at 1700, but didn’t get out until 1830.  I met my wife at Ikia just north of DC to pick up my son.  He and I made excellent time, finding a rare gap in the normally heinous traffic on I-95 south out of DC.  When we arrived and began unloading all my stuff into the HAWKs room, gaming had been underway for hours.

    Dave running his 10mm Napoleonic game using Fate of Battle

    Dave running his 10mm Napoleonic game using Fate of Battle

    Don ran a series of linked WWII scenarios on this table

    Don ran a series of linked WWII scenarios on this table

    Duncan running a War of 1813 game using Wellington Rules

    Duncan running a War of 1813 game using Wellington Rules

    Ants chasing a jeep full of soldiers

    Ants chasing a jeep full of soldiers

    My first game was a GASLIGHT game in which teams of soldiers venture into a colony of giant ants to rescue some lost kids.  Despite a valiant effort the ants ate all the soldiers, and only one of three lost kids survived to tell the tale — and spend lots of money on therapy.

    Two soldiers skirmish with a radioactive ant

    Two soldiers skirmish with a radioactive ant

    Tank running his Romans vs. Carthaginians game using Bear Yourselves Valiantly

    Tank running his Romans vs. Carthaginians game using Bear Yourselves Valiantly

    Dave assisting with my Mincio River game

    Dave assisting with my Mincio River game

    Dave assisting with Mincio

    Dave assisting with Mincio

    Chris' Battle of Five Armies game using Bear Yourselves Valiantly

    Chris' Battle of Five Armies game using Bear Yourselves Valiantly

    Bill's GAMER event

    Bill's G.A.M.E.R. event

    Bill ran this 54mm WWII game using my under-development G.A.M.E.R. rules.  (The acronym stands for the attributes of each figure:  guts, accuracy, melee, endurance, and reaction).  While one of the players thought that hand-to-hand shouldn’t carry over for multiple turns, in general the rules were well received.

    A view of Bill's 54mm Normandy game using G.A.M.E.R.

    A view of Bill's 54mm Normandy game using G.A.M.E.R.

    Chris' Hundred Years War game

    Chris' Hundred Years War game

    See details of Chris’ Battle of Barnett here:  http://onemoregamingproject.blogspot.com/2014/07/battle-of-barnet-14-april-1471-game-at.html

    One of my 10mm Napoleonic games

    One of my 10mm Napoleonic games

    I ran two 10mm Napoleonic Wars games with Fate of Battle:  Mincio River and Hanau.  Dave Wood ran another Napoleonic scenario, and he and Duncan ran the Battle of Vittoria on Saturday evening.  All seemed to go well, with the occasional rules lawyer or bad sport to dampen the event a little.  The rules seem to be slowly gaining some momentum; although, I did have one person sit through the rules briefing and then say he wasn’t interested and leave.

    A good shot of the setup of Sam's kids game, which featured the Eureka toy soldiers assaulting a for made of blocks held by the Eureka teddy bears

    A good shot of the setup of Sam's kids game, which featured the Eureka toy soldiers assaulting a for made of blocks held by the Eureka teddy bears

    Sam ran her first convention game.  It was a battle between the Eureka teddy bear figures and the Eureka toy soldier figures.  It was set up as a kids game.  She built all the terrain herself.  She went with a candy land theme.  She was quite nervous at the start, but once the game got going, she did a good job.

    Sammy running her kids game

    Sammy running her kids game

    Like many of our kids table games, she used Milk and Cookies Rules from Big Battles for Little Hands for this game.

    Sam's game in progress

    Sam's game in progress

    The objective of the toy soldiers, who outnumbered the bears, was to capture the fort made of toy blocks.  While the toy soldiers killed most of the bears, they didn’t get to the fort, so it was a teddy bear victory.

    Ed's 20mm modern skirmish

    Ed's 20mm modern skirmish

    Ed, who came down with Sam Fuson, ran his modern skirmish game set in Afghanistan.

    Sam's Sherlock Holmes GASLIGHT game

    Sam's Sherlock Holmes GASLIGHT game

    It was quite successful.  The folks had a good time.  Sam ran a Sherlock Holmes inspired GASLIGHT game.

    Geoff running his Lego pirate game

    Geoff running his Lego pirate game

    As usual, the HAWKs set aside a table for kids games.  Geoff ran his plastic pirate barroom brawl game twice.

    Geoff making a point with the youngsters

    Geoff making a point with the youngsters

    I’m not sure what point Geoff was making, but it was hard to miss.  Geoff is really good as a GM for these kids games.

    Eric running his Armies for Kids Napoleonic game

    Eric running his Armies for Kids Napoleonic game

    Eric ran the Armies for Kids giveaway game this year.  See Chris’ blog post for more details:  http://onemoregamingproject.blogspot.com/2014/07/hawks-2014-historicon-armies-for-kids.html

    A view of some of the 54mm figures in the Armies for Kids giveaway game

    A view of some of the 28mm figures in the Armies for Kids giveaway game

    This is our fourth year of hosting a game for kids under 10, after which we pass out free, painted armies to the participants.  This is an outreach effort to try to grow the hobby.  There were two very nice threads about this on TMP.  The latter is from a dad.  His comments capture exactly why we do this every year.

    http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=353652

    http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=353643

    The winners in the Armies for Kids giveaway

    The winners in the Armies for Kids giveaway

    It was really fun watching the kids’ faces as we passed out armies, terrain, dice, and rules at the end of the game.

    This convention also marked the 20th anniversary of the HAWKs as a club.  To commemorate this, we cut a celebratory cake Saturday evening, which was shared with folks playing games in our room.  See Chris’ blog post for details:  http://onemoregamingproject.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-hawks-celebrate-their-20th.html

    Bill's large-scale Helm's Deep game

    Bill's large-scale Helm's Deep game

    Bill and his son William ran this Helm’s Deep game with very large figures on Saturday night.

    Jennifer Palmer running her Blood and Swash tavern game

    Jennifer Palmer running her Blood and Swash tavern game

    The start of my GASLIGHT dog sled race

    The start of my GASLIGHT dog sled race

    Friday night Don, Chris, and I ran a reprise of our HAWKs 1000 race game.  The original HAWKs 1000 game was organized by Todd Harland-White and had four races:  dog sleds, a desert car race, a zeppelin race, and an airboat race through the jungle.  Since Todd was unable to attend, we restructured the race with just three legs:  the dog sled and car races as well as a new hover skiffs on Mars game.  Each leg was an hour, after which the players rotated to the next table.  Each player raced in all three legs of the race, collecting points along the way to determine the overall winner.  See Chris’ post here:  http://onemoregamingproject.blogspot.com/2014/07/hawks-1000-race-game-at-historicon.html

    Coming around the first turn of my dogsled race

    Coming around the first turn of my dogsled race

    My dog sled race was wild and woolly, as usual.  There were lots of flipped sleds and wounded dogs along the course.

    The hover craft lined up at the start of the Mars leg of the HAWKs 1000 race

    The hover craft lined up at the start of the Mars leg of the HAWKs 1000 race

    The hover skiff race, a new addition, seemed to go very well.  The hover skiffs (shown above) were made from dispensers for rolls of chewing gum with some bits added.  The figures were a combination of manufacturers, from Blue Moon, scratch-built robots, Pulp Figures, Recreation Conflict, and others.

    I ran a final event Sunday morning, my fifth of the convention.  It was a G.A.M.E.R. event.  It was mainly about getting feedback on the rules with a simple scenario in which commandos and partisans are trying to steal an enigma machine from the Germans.  I don’t know if I was just tired by the end of the weekend, but the game wasn’t nearly as enjoyable to me as the other times I’ve run the game.  There were also one or two people in the game who kept fighting the unique mechanics, kept waiting for me to resolve things for them, or wanted to argue about things.  They can’t all be great, I guess.

    So, I ran five games, all of which filled, and most of which went well:

    • Friday morning:  Them! (giant ants) (GASLIGHT)
    • Friday afternoon:  played Stan Sunderworth’s WWI airplane game with my son
    • Friday evening:  Battle of Mincio (Fate of Battle)
    • Saturday morning:  Battle of Hanau (Fate of Battle)
    • Saturday afternoon: did a little shopping and watched my kids play All Quiet on the Martian Front, which they enjoyed quite a bit.
    • Saturday evening:  HAWKs 1000 race (GASLIGHT)
    • Sunday morning:  Commandos Strike at Dawn (GAMER)